Thoughts on Sanctification
|"This is my journey through recovery, showing how my Creator is using the the 12-Step Christian recovery model to give me relief from the behaviors that bring me pain." --Sid|
There's no better way to participate in the process of sanctification than to follow Jesus. The apostle Peter walked with Jesus for years. He saw first-hand the love of God through His only begotten Son. Jesus helped Peter walk through the healing process of honesty, trust in God, consecration, surrender, introspection, confession, repentance, and amends. Peter understood and recognized sanctification as the "progressive work of a lifetime".
The question is, just how much faith did he have? How far did he trust God to work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure? When life got really hard for Peter, this is what happened: "And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:71-75 )
I'm glad that Peter promptly admitted his mistake, when he was convicted... But wait, Judas also admitted his mistake in denying Christ and then went out and killed himself. What's with that?
Unlike Peter, Judas had not been participating in the process of sanctification during his years of walking with Jesus. Rather than confessing his issues and letting Jesus help him deal with it, he stuffed that mess deep within himself. Then, when he made a really big mistake and realized it, all that garbage that he had been stuffing came out all at once and it was too much. He wasn't willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow (really follow) Jesus (Matthew 16:24 ).
I find it really interesting that the word translated "deny" which Jesus used in (Matthew 16:24 ) is the same Greek word that Matthew used to describe Peter's denial in Mt 26:71-75. I need to more consistently deny my "self" in the same way that Peter denied Christ. When I fail to do that, I fall -- no question about it. But when I fall, I get up again, admit my mistakes, as did Peter, and continue to cooperate with God in this lifetime-process of sanctification. It's a choice that I must make to survive.
How about you? Jesus is knocking right now at your heart's door too (Revelation 3:20 ). Will you answer? Do you trust Him enough to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him? Keep coming back to Jesus. No matter how low you sink, Jesus, with open arms, is longing for you to come home (Luke 15:11-32 ).
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
One day, as I read an email, I felt my anger rise, as I perceived that the writer was trying to shame me. What made it worse was that another person was CC'd in that message. Being put down like that is hard to take, especially when I don't believe the accusation is justified. My immediate reaction was to pound out a reply on the keyboard. But when I read what I wrote, I decided I'd better not send that, so I erased it and pounded out another reply. Over and over again, I continued to type and erase, -- all the while asking God for wisdom as to what I should say -- until finally I sent something. As my anger subsided I got back to what I was doing before that rude interruption.
It wasn't too long after that when I began to be convicted that I had made a mistake in getting angry over this situation. As a result, I confessed to God that, yes, rather than allowing that anger to control me, I should have surrendered it to Him. Then I accepted the forgiveness that He offered (1 John 1:9 ).
Later on, it occurred to me that I may also need to apologize to the person I sent the email to, as well as the other person I had CC'd. But, after all the revisions I had made to that message, I forgot what it was that I finally sent. Eventually, I looked in my sent items and found it. I was quite relieved to find that I had not said anything inappropriate and therefore didn't need to write an apology. Remember that I had prayed for wisdom during that whole process. It was gratifying to realize that, in spite of my anger, God answered my prayer and saved me from what could have been a very embarrassing apology.
I'm sorry to say that there have been previous times when I didn't pray over a hasty email reply and had to go back and apologize later. But God is good. He is always faithful to provide a way of escape when we are tempted (1 Cor 10:13 ). The question is, will we surrender to Him in the moment of temptation? This time, it was a partial surrender. Next time, I want to go all the way with God.
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
"And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." (Luke 19:2,5,6,8 )
When Jesus abides in our hearts, our attitudes change. Our selfishness and greed turn to love and generosity. Instead of defending our sins against others, we confess our mistakes and make amends to those whom we have harmed. Just as Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "make haste... for today I must abide at thy house", He says to us today, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20 )
Some questions now come to my mind.
It is always my choice as to who I will listen to and how I will live my life. It is your choice too. How will you choose to live your life today?
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 ) Scripture is full of texts like this that show God's willingness to save us from those sins that "so easily beset us" (Heb 12:1 ). There is no question, in my mind, as to the willingness of God.
Because of this, it seems to me that, my recovery process is largely dependent upon my willingness.
The question is, "Will I continue to willingly follow God's leading through this process of Sanctification?" Yes, making amends is uncomfortable. It's even scary. But, looking back now on the many times that I have willingly made amends, I can honestly say that the pain is well worth the gain. Peace always comes to me out of the turmoil of those painful experiences.
Jesus said, "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 ). "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.' Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:20-21 )
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
When I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings, it's gratifying to read God's response to my request in His Holy Word...
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ).
But I must also remember that God will not do these things without my cooperation. I must remember that, in Philippians 2, verse 12 precedes verse 13: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12 ). I must remember that the first part of James 4:7 precedes the second part: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7 ). So, I no longer question God's willingness and power to save me from those sins that so easily beset me. I only question my willingness to cooperate with Him so that I can become the man that He would have me to be.
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
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